Recipe: This is one of the oldest Czech Christmas cookies – it's prepared 'under water'

These lesser-known cookies are the original 'three-ingredient' Czech holiday treat, made with just butter, yeast, and flour.

Eva Indruchova

Written by Eva Indruchova
Published on 20.12.2020 10:33 (updated on 20.12.2020)

In the Czech Republic, the cukroví (Christmas cookie) tradition is deeply rooted in our culture. Every family guards its set of recipes, passed down from one generation to another. There are a multitude of varieties and we usually prepare several types – it isn't unusual to find up to fifteen different cookies on the Christmas table.

One particular type of cukroví, "podvodnice," is among my favorite Christmas cookies for many reasons. First of all, it is one of the oldest recipes. Podvodnice were prepared especially in poor families because the main ingredients are just butter, yeast, and flour – no eggs, a tiny amount of milk, and no sugar in the dough, just a final sugar-coating.

Podvodnice are also special due to the fact that it is one of the rare Czech Christmas cookies (if not the only one) that is yeast based. Most of the others are biscuit-like cookies without yeast.

What makes these cookies highly unique, however, is that they do not rise in the open-air but under water! Hence the name: "podvodnice" which comes from the word "pod vodou" meaning "under water" though oddly enough the literal translation from Czech into English actually means "female fraudster."

While today's Christmas celebrations focus more and more on gifts, these cookies bring us back to the traditional Christmas values – they are easy, simple, inexpensive, without special decoration, modest and humble, yet tasty and delicate. We may remind ourselves that this is just what we need to make Christmas great! Who needs posh gifts when the most important aspect of the season is to be surrounded by our loved ones. 

PRIVATE PROPERTIES

This recipe from my grandmother calls for just a few ingredients:

Podvodnice

For the cookies

  • 21 g fresh yeast
  • 200 g all-purpose flour
  • 125 g butter
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp milk

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For the final sugar coating

  • Icing sugar
  • Vanilla sugar

Instructions

  • 1.Prepare the yeast slurry then mix ingredients into a ball; place in a bowl of cold water. Let stand for 90 min.
  • 2.Sprinkle some flour on your work space, roll out the dough, and cut into different shapes using cookie cutters.
  • 3.Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake at 160°C until golden.
  • 4.When the cookies are still warm roll in vanilla and icing sugar.

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